By Gerry Prewett.
Unexpectedly Bristol Rovers last game of the season sees them entertain Barnsley in a game, which has nothing riding on it for either team. Rovers secured their Division One future with the 0-0 draw at Fleetwood last weekend. Meanwhile the Tykes were presented with their automatic promotion in very unexpected circumstances mid-week as Portsmouth and Sunderland both lost.
Since their relegation last season the South Yorkshire team have applied themselves solidly to the task at hand and with an undefeated home record have always been there or thereabouts.
The Tykes Boss Daniel Stendel who was watching the Spurs v Ajax game on TV and was keeping up to date witht eh First Division scores commented, “I did not expect this. I thought we would have needed to win on Saturday. We all celebrated together.”
“We deserved automatic promotion, after this year. We are back in the Championship and I am happy. I was not sure we would change so much so fast. The players made it easy, and the club, I can feel the trust.”
In the game at Oakwell on Saturday Blackpool took a shock 15th minute lead when Armand Gnanduillet failed to make a proper connection with a cross from the right and ball skewed off to the Tangerines Harry Pritchard, whose instep volley from the left struck Jordan Williams on the chest and deflected inside the right-hand post of keeper Adam Davies for an own goal.
Relentless pressure finally told as Cauley Woodrow received the ball inside the area, took it a couple of yards out and rifled in a low shot inside Christoffer
Mafoumbi's right-hand post in front of the Kop in the 40th minute for his 16th goal of the season.
Barnsley's fifth corner of the second half brought the second goal, Liam Lindsay producing a diagonal run to head powerfully home as Cameron McGeehan swung the flag kick to the near post. Despite further attempts it stayed at 2-1 for the Tykes to collect all three points.
Speaking after the game Stendel said, “The tension was very high for me and the players. But I told the players it was just a normal game and we needed the best performance. After the 1-0 for Blackpool, we played well.”
“We created a lot of chances and we deserved to win. Blackpool didn’t really have any chances after the first half. I am very happy with the performance and I am very proud that my team can show this performance in a situation which is not easy.”
“Other clubs have done very well for us which is good, but we have one game left and we need a very similar performance and another win in Bristol so we can 100 per cent make sure we get automatic promotion.”
"We are very happy today about our game and results in other stadiums but we will come back to training on Tuesday and be focused on Bristol Rovers. I assume that we will have to win on Saturday. The best thing is to prepare for Bristol as if we have to win it. We cannot influence other games and I think our rival teams will win their games anyway.”
This will be the first time the clubs have clashed in the West Country in the League since the 1992-93 season when the Yorkshire team won both games, 5-1 at Twerton Park and 2-1 at Oakwell. The clubs have only met twice in the FA Cup in the first and the last meetings!
The first game was on 5 February 1910 when the Yorkshire team thrashed Rovers 4-0. Rovers had beaten Grimsby away 2-0 before travelling up to Yorkshire. Wilf Bartrop, Ernie Gadsby, Tom Forman and George Utley scoring for the Tykes.
The last game took place on 13 February 1999 in a 5th Round tie, Rovers had beaten Woking, Exeter (in a replay), Rotherham and Leyton Orient. But goals by Craig Hignet (3) and Bruce Dyer for the home team and a single Jason Roberts goal saw a 4-1 victory for Barnsley.
The overall record between the teams shows that there have been 31 games, 11 Rovers wins, 9 draws and 11 Barnsley wins. Rovers’ last victory was on 9 November 1991 at Oakwell with Andy Preece scoring the vital goal.
Assistant Head Coach Dale Tonge speaking of his pride in seeing his team promoted said, “Ourselves and Luton have now done that and I think it is just rewards for what the players, staff and club as a whole have achieved this season." Tonge feels that Tuesday night's celebrations for the Reds represented 'just rewards' for an ultra-consistent season. He admits that clinching the title ahead of Luton, who face Oxford, would provide added gloss, with the Reds having to better the Hatters' result to clinch silverware.
He added: "None of us expected both teams to lose on Tuesday and it was a quiet household until the 95th minute when the whistle went at Portsmouth and the Sunderland result also matters. It was a great night and just rewards for what the players have achieved this season."
On potential title icing, he added: "It would. We know it is not in our hands. But we will go there with a focus to win and hopefully Oxford will do us a favour. Promotion was the main aim, but if we do get that, it is job done."